Kuwait: 2022 was a tough year for the global economy. Many countries across the world faced structural challenges and a decline in economic activity. The war in Ukraine further exacerbated these strains.
While the rise of oil prices benefited Kuwait, helping it to fund increasing public spending, the country is still trying to keep up with mounting public demands.
Over the past two years, there have been rising calls to increase wages for frontline workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, which included healthcare, security, and basic service workers.
But these frontlines have been extended to include workers in other fields that had little role in the fight against the pandemic. To this end, an estimated 600 million dinars ($2 billion) was allocated from the national budget, but the line was not drawn at frontline workers.
In 2022, proposals to compensate employees for unused leave days were put forward with no timeframe specified, with 400 million dinars ($1.3 billion) earmarked for this purpose.
Now, members of the new National Assembly elected in September are demanding salary, wage, and pension raises as well as consumer debt buyouts, among other things.
Just when these populist demands will stop remains unknown. It is also unclear to what extent the government, represented by the Council of Ministers, will be able to address them in the coming months and years without disrupting parliamentary life.
These matters have been embedded in the fabric of Kuwait’s economic development and financial policies since the beginning of the oil era in the late 1940s. Then they were reinforced after the first oil shock in 1974.
Naturally, things have changed over the past seven decades.
In 1957, an official census recorded the country’s population at 225,000, including 115,000 Kuwaitis — a far cry from today’s population of 4.4 million at the end of 2022, of whom 1.5 million are Kuwaitis, representing 34% of the total population, according to data from the Public Authority of Civil Information (PACI).